|The Use of Technology in Alleviating Poverty in Tanzania (REPOA, 1994, 35 p.)|
|A FRAMEWORK FOR TECHNO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PLANNING|
The terms "science" and "scientific" are used in three ways. Firstly, they refer to the body of knowledge that has been collected in books and papers by the practitioners of science. This is known as scientific knowledge. Secondly, they are used to describe the activity of this scientific community. At the core of this practice is scientific method - the procedures of systematic observation and recording, hypothesis formulation and experimentation. Thirdly the words science and scientific are used to describe the individuals, groups and institutions who are practitioners of science, i.e. the scientific community. There are basically two central aspects of scientific endeavour:
(a) Science aims at the discovery and understanding of natural phenomena;
(b) Science proceeds by means of a methodology based on observation, experimentation and reason.
It must be emphasized that science is not merely a set of operational techniques or laboratory procedures: these alone would render science no more than systematic empiricism. Scientific knowledge is distinguished from other knowledge by its theoretical base, where empirical research is based on theoretical understanding and hypothesis testing. However, it must be remembered that some activities practised by personnel educated in science have deficits of theoretical underpinning. For instance, in civil engineering, theory cannot predict for all contingencies and so models are used and tested. In the pharmaceutical industry too, due to the fact that effects of new compounds cannot be accurately predicted, complex trial and error techniques are required.
Science involves a spectrum of activities, and a distinction is often made between "pure" (or basic) science, and "applied" (or mission-oriented) science. Pure science is popularly considered to be concerned with the discovery of natural law and the description of nature. It has as its aim the understanding of nature; it seeks explanation. Applied science is considered to deal with the task of employing the findings of pure science to get practical tasks done. Another aspect that may be worth noting is that there could be a time lag between the development of a theory in pure science and its application to practice.
Having made the above statements about science, the first point to be made about technology is that it is not simply, "applied science". Technology is not only a body of knowledge concerned with the solution of practical problems but also includes the tools and artifacts which are used to achieve those solutions. Thus we may say that while the applied scientist is concerned with the task of discovering applications for pure theory, the technologist has a more practical problem which deals not only with applicability but also with that of fitness of purpose and of economy.
The interaction between science and technology has been a topic of lively discussion and debate. As pointed out by Ramanathan (1990), some researchers have shown the pervasive influence across all sectors of the economy (steel, electronics, food processing etc.) of the diffusion of technologies growing out of basic research in the sciences (physics, chemistry, molecular biology, etc). Others have shown that major contributions have also been made by technology to science. Technology has also made "indirect" contributions to science because in the course of pursuing practical ends, abstract principles of science hitherto unsuspected are often discovered. For instance, electromagnetism stimulated the development of differential equations, and hydrodynamics function theory. Likewise, the pure sciences of thermodynamics were found as a result of the effort to improve the efficiency of steam and other heat engines.
Some researchers belong to another school of thought and question the analytical usefulness of distinguishing between the content of science and of technology. For this they cite molecular biology, biochemistry and solid state physics as examples where the content of science and of technology has become indistinguishable. Based on these considerations, analysts are of the view that the nature of the relationship and complementarities between science and technology varies considerably among sectors of application and that this should be well appreciated by policy-makers.
The literature on technology management abounds with numerous definitions of technology, each focusing on the specificities relevant to the context in which the term technology is being used. Some define technology with respect to its generation, others focus on its application and some analysts look at both generation and application. Often technology has been identified with machines and processes. Cetron (1974) defined technology as "the application of knowledge to achieve practical ends". According to Schlie et al. (1987), technology is defined as "the knowledge and means to do something - e.g. to design and/or make a computer". Goulet (1977) defined technology as "the systematic application of collective human rationality to the solution of problem by asserting control over nature and over processes of all kinds". According to Hawthorne (1971), technology is "the application of science to the solving of well-defined problems". Some scholars [Stewart, 1978; Miles, 1982; Sharif, 1983] have defined technology as consisting of hardware (i.e. machines, equipment, tools, materials, etc.,) and software (i.e. know-how, skills, experience, information, management, etc.,). Wangwe (1993) has perceived technology as "embodied in people, institutions and networks and interactions among many types of information and agents". Sharif (1988) and his colleagues in the Technology Atlas Project Team (1987), have argued that either explicitly or implicitly the above and other previous definitions of technology really say that technology can be disaggregated into four totally interlocking embodiment forms:
(a) Object-embodied form or "technoware" - tools, capital goods, intermediary goods, products, physical equipment, machinery, physical processes, etc.,
(b) People-embodied form or "humanware" - understanding, capacity for systematic application of knowledge, know how, human capability, human labour, specialized ideas, skills, problem solving capacity, etc.,
(c) Document-embodied form or "inforware" - knowledge about physical relationships, scientific and/or other forms of organized knowledge, principles of physical and social phenomena, technical information, specifications, standards, computer software, etc.,
(d) Institution-embodied form or "orgaware" - organizational work assignment, day-to-day operations of production, social arrangements, means for using and controlling factors of production, organization of products, processes, tools and devices for use by people.
Fig. 1: Vicious Circles of Technological Underderdevelopment
Source: UN-ESCAP, 1989.
According to the Technology Atlas Project Team (1987) and Sharif (1988), all four embodiment forms of technology (Figure 2) are complementary to one another and are required simultaneously for the production of goods and services. Such production can never take place in the complete absence of any of the four embodiment forms. Of course depending on the nature of the production activity, the relative importance of each of the four embodiment forms may differ. The use of the four embodiment forms concept has been demonstrated in Bangladesh to illustrate the policy imperatives of the non-farm sector [Haque, 1989], and also in other Asian countries such as India, South Korea and Japan (Ramanathan, 1988; Bowonder and Miyake, 1988).
Technology however does not operate in a vacuum. Its use takes place within an operational environment which may be called the "technology climate". The technology climate of a country has been defined by the Technology Atlas Project Team (1987) and Sharif (1988) as the national setting in which technology-based activities are carried out. The "climate" includes factors such as physical infrastructure (roads, water, electricity, banks, posts, telecommunications, market centres, etc.); support services (technical extension service, financial service, etc.); R&D institutions; and political systems at various administrative levels (for regulation, property rights, etc.). Hayami and Ruttan (1971) have argued that the "climate" (or "environmental") factors should be treated as endogenous to the technology development process, rather than as exogenous factors that operate independently.